At some point in your ceremony you may have heard something to the effect of "two becomes one," that your hearts and souls are joined together for all eternity, and perhaps that you're now joined in the eyes of God. There couldn't be any stronger bond, right? You're joined in God's eyes! While this sounds blissful, it's not entirely true, and that paradigm can be the source of many challenges.
You'll live together. Go places together. Dream together. You may have children you raise together. But you are still individuals, with different experiences and ways you perceive information. You come from different backgrounds. You work in different jobs. You have different relationships with friends, coworkers and others in social media. All that means that the two of you are growing and changing all the time, and perhaps not at the same time, pace or way.
There may be times in your relationship where you feel out of sync because of this, thinking your partner just doesn't "get" you anymore. There may be times when something that never affected your spouse now seems to be a sensitive subject. How did that happen? You thought the two of you were so compatible when you got married, and now you're not sure who they are anymore. These differences can be as small as what type of cereal they prefer now, or as large as whether they still agree on having children, for instance.
Don't fret! There's probably just some growing going on, and that's ok. Sometimes you're the one who's growing and your partner is the one who needs to catch up, and sometimes it's the reverse. Sometimes you grow in different directions, and that's ok too.
Being married is a lifetime commitment in which a couple promises to witness the other's journey through life, and to acknowledge it and accept each other as each is, not as we expect them to be. There's an old saying that a man marries a woman hoping she never changes and a woman marries a man hoping to change him. That never works.
Challenges often occur in relationships when we have expectations that are not communicated ahead of time, are not agreed upon, or someone fails to live up to them in our eyes.
What's the answer? Stay connected! Communicate. Don't attempt to change the other back, as you can't. The only person you can change is yourself, and how you respond in situations.
Finding that sweet spot of where two becomes One while maintaining their individuality and their own life journeys is part of the good stuff we call marriage. Give each other permission to experience life in your own way and share that with each other, and you'll find much more satisfaction in your relationship.
Love relationships often go through different stages, and sometimes we think that if we don't feel the same things we felt in the beginning that something is wrong. That may not necessarily be true.
In the beginning of many relationships, there's a strong physical connection. We get excited to see each other. We feel a strong pull to that person when we're not together. We may even feel a bit euphoric when we are together. It seems perfect! We're sure we have found The One, and we're going to spend our lives together in this state of bliss.
Then there's the first serious disagreement or one of you does something the other doesn't expect. You may think "What happened? I thought you were The One? Obviously I was wrong! How could you think/do that?" Our dreams are shattered and we start to wonder if we should run before things get any further along.
This is the time when we start to see that we are two individuals in a relationship, rather than one being a mirror image of ourselves. Yay! Step One is reached. Now is when we become acutely aware that relationships require some attention, and dare I say it, work?
We are human beings, first and foremost. We are shaped by life experiences, interactions with others, and life in general. As a result, we are imperfect by nature. So now we have two imperfect beings trying to have a perfect relationship. How is that going to happen??? It doesn't.
What does happen, is that two imperfect beings come together, make a commitment to be fully present for each other for the rest of their lives, in all their flaws; to be a witness to each other's existence and support each other in their search to find happiness. Together.
The couples who achieve the most marital satisfaction often talk about the deepening levels of intimacy they've achieved over time. I'm not referring to intimacy in a sexual way, but in the deeper levels of vulnerability they feel. They can share and receive love, support and acceptance from their mates as they reveal more of themselves, their true inner desires and flaws to each other.
When you commit to each other during your wedding ceremony, you embark on a journey of Oneness. There should be no more consideration that this person might possibly leave if there's a difference in opinion or one of you changes. The foundation and bond is set. All that remains is how to move forward.
When a couple accepts that foundational premise, no one takes sides in a disagreement any longer. There may be two differing opinions, but all that needs to be done is find the common ground or mediated place where both can find acceptance and move forward together. Disagreements are no long confrontational, since the two of you are committed to finding happiness together.
Instead of "You never help with the housework and it drives me crazy. Can't you help instead of sitting in front of the TV all weekend long?" a couple now is heard saying "Hon, I need help. I'm feeling I need a little more support from you regarding the housework. How can we make that happen?" and the spouse responding "Babe, I need a little time to unwind and then I'm happy to dig in. Can we start cleaning as soon as this game is over?"
How do you and your partner communicate in your relationship? Could you use a little help learning a new way to build a deeper connection? I'm happy to help.
Oh, how the times have changed!
There was a time when most couples got engaged, went to the church they attended every week, asked the minister to marry them at the church, and the reception was held in the church hall. There was a list of about 15 songs, a few standardized readings to choose from, flowers were chosen and your outfits too. That was about it.
With the growing population of couples who do not attend a particular church, temple or synagogue on a regular basis, there has been an increase in the complexity of planning. Finding and booking a venue can take over a year. A couple may not have a regular person they call on for spiritual guidance. There's no assumption that the ladies' guild would be catering, and all this means that parents of a couple are often unable to answer questions about what's customary, traditional or expected with regard to vendors and other matters as well. So let me address a couple of them.
To Feed or Not to Feed?
The choice of whether to include wedding vendors such as photographers, videographers, caterers, DJs and the wedding officiant in your food count is totally up to you. Traditionally they are included. However, whatever your choice, it is expected that you communicate that choice to them way in advance of your date. Many of your vendors have family at home, wondering if their mom/dad/sweetheart will be home to have dinner with them or not. Those who are involved for several hours of your day also may need to bring food with them if not included, such as photographers and videographers who often work through breakfast, lunch and dinner to capture your day for you.
Also, are you asking a vendor to participate in some way with the dinner or reception? Then include them. This group might include musicians, DJs, the wedding officiant, and venue owners if involved in setup/cleanup, service, etc.
If you are going to include a vendor, consider sending an invitation to them, asking them to RSVP. If you're not going to include someone, please let them know that as well so they can make arrangements to eat before/after providing services to you.
For those who are providing products and services to make your day special, the rule of thumb is no different than others who provide services to you. If you are pleased with their contribution to your day, consider a gratuity. If the photographer stood outside in the heat/rain/snow for 2 hours to capture 'that shot' you've always wanted, then consider a gratuity. Wedding officiants are often the least paid vendor on your list, but they are certainly not the one who puts the least amount of work and effort into your ceremony, and are responsible for assuring your marriage is both legal and legally recorded. If they have done a good job for you, if the ceremony was what you wanted it to be, consider a gratuity. Others to consider tipping? Photo booth operator, DJ, photographer, videographer, wedding planner, plated dinner servers, cake cutter, and those who will be cleaning up after your event.
Do you have other wedding etiquette questions you'd like me to address? Send me a message either through my website here or my Facebook page and I'd be happy to answer them for you.
One of the questions couples face when planning their wedding is whether to see each other before the ceremony. There are pros and cons to both, and here are some thoughts to consider.
Many couples are no longer superstitious and don't care whether they see each other before the ceremony. Perhaps they're more practical about such matters. If having an outdoor ceremony, you may be concerned that the weather may affect your hair, makeup, clothes or decorations if you wait to take the pictures until after the I Do's.
For some, this day is emotionally charged and may seem overwhelming. Seeing each other before the ceremony can also relieve some of the nerves felt because you get to be together shortly before the ceremony and calm each other down.
Photographers call it a "First Look" and usually are proponents of a couple seeing each other before the ceremony. It makes their job much easier. If a couple is willing to see each other before the ceremony, the photographer can get many more pictures taken before the ceremony, shortening the time needed immediately afterward. This means your guests, bridal party or family members aren't bored, left to change clothes, started undressing or are drinking until the photographer is able to capture all the family, bridal party and couple shots you want before the reception begins. Taking photos afterward can sometimes seem more like herding cats for a photographer. Many have found cute ways to make this moment tender, heartfelt or funny, depending on the couple.
If one is superstitious, it's considered a sign of bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the ceremony. This superstition comes from the days of arranged marriages between families where a father of the bride might be afraid that a groom would choose not to go through with the arranged marriage if he doesn't find the bride attractive enough, and that would bring shame on the bride and the family. This is also the reason why brides have traditionally worn veils over their faces until after the vows have been exchanged.
Today that's not the case. Today's reasoning for not seeing each other is one of the heart. I've spoken with grooms who've been married for 40 years and who didn't see their brides until they stood at the back of the aisle. They've shared with me that the vision of their sweetheart standing there, the hope and love in their eyes and their sheer beauty is what they've carried in their hearts for decades, through difficult marital times and in war zones. That very moment can be something very intimately exchanged in your eyes as you see each other just moments before you speak your hearts to each other, and can also be captured by your photographer as well.
As for saving time for the photographer, groom pictures with their family and bride pictures with their family can all be taken before the ceremony, saving just the photos where the couple are in them together for afterward.
The choice is really up to you, and whatever choice you make will be the right one.
Newly engaged and already wondering what you've gotten yourself into? Do you just want to hide in a box and wait til the planning's all over?
Planning a wedding is a LOT of work, especially if you both come from large families or have different ideas about how you'd like your special day to look. Choosing all the vendors to help you create your vision; trying to make all your friends and family happy; then there's the budget! How do you pull it all together?!?!
It's not uncommon for a couple (or one partner) to wonder if they really want to get married at all. You may question whether you're even right for each other. How did you not know he/she would be this (fill in the blank)?
Don't fret! Keep your eyes and hearts set on the end goal - spending the rest of your lives together. This is just one crazy day of it.
The planning process does however offer great clues to how the two of you react under stress, and how the two of you communicate when there are outside influences, strong opinions, and deadlines.
When I work with a couple during pre-marital counseling, this is what I focus on. I really don't care if one likes blue and the other likes pink. What I care about is how you each approach differences when they arise and how you work through them when they occur, because they will. We're all individuals with strong opinions, different experiences and visions for our own futures. And guess what? They change over time too! We look at your conflict resolution styles and develop insight into how the two of you can gain new skills and use the ones you already have, to build a strong and healthy relationship that will not only last, but grow become even better with time.
According to a survey published in the Journal of Family Psychology, couples with premarital education reported higher levels of marital satisfaction and experienced a 30 percent decline in the likelihood of divorce over five years.
Don't you owe your relationship that chance? If not now, before you get married, consider conflict resolution coaching after the honeymoon. The sooner the two of you learn to disagree and move through it, the better.
Today is my birthday. For me, that usually means a walk down Memory Lane and all the people I've known along the way, how far I've traveled on my journey, and how precious time is.
This morning I'm especially focused on the folks who've touched my heart over the years, with whom I've lost touch for whatever reason. When looking back, I know I regret not having made extra effort to spend more time with those folks and perhaps lesser time with those who seemed to drain me or that I spent time with because someone said it was the "right thing to do."
I remember planning my wedding when I was just 19 years of age, and listening to all the people around me telling me who I needed to invite. It sounded something like this: "Of course you have to invite (name)! They've been a friend of the family's for years!" or "They're your (blood relation). You have to invite them!" I personally hadn't seen that person since I was a child and in some instances not at all, and therefore had no real heart connection with them. But at that age, it's easier to appease rather than be honest and forthright.
When you plan your most deeply felt moments in your life, who do you really want to share them with? If a room is filled with many people you really don't know, are you taking time away from spending it with the people you truly care about and want to see? If a wedding reception lasts for 4 hours, and you have 250 guests, that means you have 240 minutes total to eat, listen to speeches, dance and visit with all your guests. Aunt X and Uncle Y may have flown from the other side of the country for your special day, and you now have a little over 2 minutes to spend with them while eating, dancing, and handling all the other responsibilities the bride & groom have on their wedding day.
"Micro weddings" as they're called are making a splash in other parts of the world for this reason and more. Not only do you get to truly enjoy your day with the people you love and care about, but you have more resources with which to do it. The cost per guest is greatly reduced. Options for venues open up. Ways to add special touches to your day that were cost-prohibitive now are within reach.
As an officiant I see couples stressed out when their wedding day becomes larger than they envisioned - when things don't go as they had planned.
So, perhaps you should consider "Who Loves You, Baby?" when planning your special day, and in the years to come. I've never heard someone regret having spent time with those dearest to them, but I have about time wasted doing things that weren't. Live from your heart every day, and surround yourself with those who do as well.
We all want our special day to be memorable, for both us as well as our guests. Here are a few ideas:
Is there a place that holds special meaning to the two of you? Can you hold your ceremony there? Love Shakespeare? Find a balcony and get married there Romeo & Juliet-style. I've performed ceremonies lakeside, in living rooms, parks, nestled in trees, on golf courses, in barns, fields and backyards as well as more traditional venues.
Does your ceremony reflect your beliefs and what you want to say, or is it something you found in a book? Does it combine your beliefs or only reflect one of you? Your ceremony can be as different as the two of you. The days of the unity candle being the only way to symbolize your union are over. In truth, it wasn't even the oldest way to do it. I love working with clients to create something special to just the two of you or to join a blended family together!
Give your special day a theme! A Rat Pack theme featuring ladies in polka dot dresses with sweetheart necklines, pearls, bright red lipstick and high heels, and the guys in suits with fedoras, Frank Sinatra music and a Las Vegas style reception would certainly be memorable. Love the Renaissance period? Rent Elizabethan style costumes for your wedding party.
Party favors and guest gifts can be expensive when you have a lot of guests and you add personalization to items! Besides, how many beer can koozies does your grandmother need? Ask several friends who've gotten married already whether people took their party favors home or left them on the table. You may see some items are more in demand than others. Also. Consider the same basic rules of gift giving you would at holiday time. What is it people value most? YOU! Spending time with you is the reason they came to your wedding or event in the first place. How can you assure they get just a little more of your time? Some couples choose to go table-to-table during dinner to greet their guests. Perhaps you hand a flower to the ladies when you do that. Use a Polaroid camera and snap pictures of you with your guests - one for you and one for them. That way you both can remember your special day together.
Make your party favors work extra hard for you. Consider cookie bouquets, cake pop towers or other edibles as decorations on your tables. They act as decorations. Party favors. And they're one less thing that needs cleaning up at the end of the event. Leftovers? Take them to your gift opening the next day. Personalized decks of cards can keep guests occupied while photos are being taken or dinner plates picked up before the dance, and used year round at home.
Consider what makes the two of you special, and that's what to share with your guests. If you're big on conservation, skip the paper invites, save the dates, and RSVPs. Use a phone and website instead. Vegan? Serve food that reflects you and your beliefs! This is YOUR day. Your guests may actually like trying something new and different.
Are you both shy? Then consider videotaping your smaller, more intimate ceremony. You can play it at the big party your family wants to throw for you later, while still saying the most intimate words to each other in a smaller setting.
Whatever you do, remember this is your day and your love story being told.
This year's wedding season isn't over for me yet, but I want to thank each and every couple that's chosen me to help them tell their love story and join them together. It's been humbling and a continued reminder for me of what love really looks like. I've listened as you've poured your hearts out to each other in your personal vows, for all your family and friends to hear as well as your partner. I wish I had copies of all of your words as they moved me almost as much as they did your sweetheart. Please do keep them and read them often to remind you of the "WHY" you're married to this amazing person who stood in front of you and vowed to love you forever, no matter what.
In your vows, many of you talked about how love is raw - messy - hard. Yes. True love means that regardless of what's happening, the two of you are committed to working past the hurt, the egos clashing and to find a solution that works for both of you. In the alternative, love means agreeing to disagree this time and work through any emotions that keep the two of you from moving forward.
I see young couples who have the wisdom to know that neither of them is perfect or has all the answers. These couples have had wonderful examples in their lives: usually older couples who have learned that true commitment makes finding those creative solutions easier, because they don't hold back to protect themselves out of fear that the other will leave them.
But given that commitment - emotions are still real and not debatable, meaning they still hurt whether you agree with them or not. The pain is raw and undeniable. How we express ourselves can make the difference between working through something quickly, loosening the bricks of your very foundation or a million shades of grey in between. You get to choose.
When you disagree, fight the urge to lash out. Hurting the other will only hurt you in the end. Your partner IS you now. Talk with your partner (and thus yourself!) the way you'd like them to talk with you - out of kindness and respect. Avoid confrontational language. Replace it with statements about how you feel rather than accusations about what they may have done.
And above all, tell your partner why you appreciate them, love them, and feel blessed they've chosen to be with you. That will deepen your relationship in the years to come.
Blessings to all of you,
The #1 fear for most people is a fear of public speaking. I believe the #1 fear for most engaged couples is the fear of pre-marital counseling, that time when the two of you need to speak publicly about subjects you're afraid may be deal breakers to your relationship. But there are really good reasons why you should feel that fear and do it anyway, as Susan Jeffers would say. I'd even like to suggest that it's displaced, since perhaps you've been given an antiquated definition of what it actually is.
Statistically, a survey published in the Journal of Family Psychology, states that couples with premarital education report higher levels of marital satisfaction and experienced a 30 percent decline in the likelihood of divorce over five years. That alone should send you running to a professional trained in premarital education! But let's not stop there.
Realistically, getting married is not an inexpensive task, and getting divorced is substantially more painful and expensive in the long run, oftentimes very disruptive to more than just the two of you when children are involved. I know that sounds terrible to say, but #Truth.
What if. What if! What if pre-marital counseling was truly educational. We all know that it's impossible for two imperfect human beings to have a perfect relationship. That just makes common sense, right? It also makes sense that life happens, and we change, grow, and learn, both as individuals and as a couple. Sometimes that means we don't do those things exactly the same way. A life-altering event such as the long-term serious illness of a parent, for instance, may change each partner differently. Have you discussed how you might respond to such an event if the time came? What if that response changes for one of you when it actually happens? Does that negate what you might have discussed earlier before you got married?
It's impossible to predict all that will happen in your relationship at the time you're engaged, but what can be predicted is that if you don't have the skills to communicate effectively when conflict happens, you will not be able to navigate any conflict successfully without hurt feelings and damage to your relationship.
So let's take a fresh look at pre-marital discussions. When I work with couples before a ceremony, I focus not on whether the two of you will want to paint the kitchen blue or hot pink, but rather how to talk with and to each other when a difficult discussion arises. We explore your individual responses to stressful situations, how your partner can support you during those discussions, and how the two of you can resolve them together, rather than retreating to individual corners and preparing for an attack or going on the offensive to avoid getting hurt.
There are several experts in the field of relationships that talk about being able to identify in minutes which couples will succeed and which will fail, with no prior history with the couples. Many of them measure your communication styles instead of whether you hold hands, talk baby talk to each other or share a series of hobbies together.
How do you and your significant other communicate with each other? How do you respond when you feel stressed or under fire? What's your partner's initial response? How is it working for you now? Is there room for improvement? If you plan for success professionally, wouldn't you want to plan for success in your relationships as well? Talk with your partner today and make sure you have all the tools you need to assure your success for years to come. If you're already in a committed relationship, why not improve your marital satisfaction and overall happiness together?
When we fell in love, it felt great! Our toes tingled, we smiled whenever we thought of each other, and it all felt so new, maybe even like nothing we'd ever felt before. We wanted that feeling to last forever, so we got engaged. Many of us spent months or literally years to plan our weddings. We started with the big plan, and worked our way down to the finest of details to make sure our day turned out perfectly. Then we got married. We could live in that feeling forever now, right? But that feeling didn't last. We asked ourselves what happened, and wondered why we ever got married.
When we get married, I believe a new sentient being is created, called Our Relationship. It requires constant care, protection, nurturing and ongoing attention in order to stay healthy, much like planting a tree does. Our Relationship goes through seasons and stages too, much like an apple tree. In the beginning, we find a safe place to plant it. Our Relationship also needs lots of water and nutrients in order to flower, and so we might even set up a schedule to assure it gets them. Bees are needed to pollinate the flowers, and continued watering and nutrients lead to beautiful fruit in the Fall. If we stop caring for Our Relationship then, and assuming it now knows how to take care of itself, it won't make it through the winter. So we wrap the trunk to protect it. We might put a cage around it to keep deer and other predators away when Our Relationship is most vulnerable.
Have you given your relationship that level of attention since you got married? If you have, you probably are enjoying the benefits of a fruitful marriage. If not, there is still time if the damage has not taken irreversible tolls. Start nurturing the tree of your marriage immediately, with kinder words, deeds and attention. Work with your partner to restore Your Relationship back to health, and you'll discover that now it also provides a deeper appreciation for the shared life the two of you create and nurture together.
Rev. Ronnie was ordained in 2010 as an interfaith minister through The New Seminary, located in New York City. She is available to perform ceremonies throughout the United States, aboard ship or in other countries.